How to inject some bite into tired footballing summers with a new format

Like a lot of offices, there was plenty of chat in the New Graphic workplace about the underwhelming start to this year’s football championship.

The difference is the New Graphic lads decided to do something about it. Eamonn O’Sullivan, Diarmuid Slattery, and Dave Garavin all had an interest in Gaelic football and given the day job, they decided to offer an alternative vision. Their two options feature home-and-away group stages — eight groups of four and four groups of eight, plus New York in one of those — before progression to the last 16, quarter-, semi-finals and finals.

“Periodically the topic of the format of the Football Championship would come up,” explained Diarmuid Slattery, “whether it was at a cold league match in February or in anticipation (or lack of) for the coming summer’s Championship.

“In general both myself and most of my friends who follow gaelic football, felt that outside of Ulster, the traditional provincial format was very stale.”

When Eamonn O’Sullivan joined New Graphic, the subject came up again.

“We were saying, ‘why don’t we represent it visually?’” says O’Sullivan. “And once we did that we found it was more realistic, that you could see it as an actual alternative. What we’re saying is that we’d run the provincial championships off before moving on to these options, but that’s what it’s all about — providing options.”

Added Slattery: “So we actually mock this up. Option 1 show’s eight groups of four. We actually drew them out of a bag and we worked out a schedule for them.

How to inject some bite into tired footballing summers with a new format

“This option looks at a county playing three other counties both home and away. We felt this could bring great business boosts to towns across Ireland. We also felt there could be a healthy bit of ‘bite’ added with the home and away dimension. Two teams from each group would qualify for the knock out stages. A contentious issue with this option is that there is no New York. But then they would still get to play in the Connacht Championship.

“Option 2 looks at four groups of eight. There would be seven matches, home against 3/4 teams and away against the other 4/3 teams in your group. For the sake of argument we put one group with nine and they all have to travel to New York. Not the worst place to have to go. The plus on the side of option 2 is that you would get more evenly matched games. Four teams would qualify from each group for the knock out stages.

How to inject some bite into tired footballing summers with a new format

“Lastly we looked at starting the Championship in April and having the All-Ireland final on the first Sunday in September so as to condense the year, leaving more time for players to get back to their clubs.

How to inject some bite into tired footballing summers with a new format

“The upshot was that we felt counties should have more, regular games in the summer and that the only way this could be done was in a Championship League basis. We also felt that the League and the pre-season cups should be scrapped.

“But that the provincials should be kept as separate competitions. They would serve as warm up games and as opportunities to win some silverware.”

“Going to the league games you just don’t have that championship buzz,” says Slattery. “And there are such inequalities in the provincial system... that’s not even getting into it from the players’ point of view, the lack of high-quality games.

“Armagh are gone — how are those players suppose to improve? We said we’d draw this up to create a talking point.”

New Graphic are a design agency based in Dublin with a strong interest in Gaelic games and sport. Check out: 

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